Dr. Sadie Mestman and staff have recently added their emotional support dog, Cali, to the team. As far as Cali’s role, Dr. Mestman explains, “It really helps calm the patients – adults and children alike – having a sweet, patient, relaxed Canine Assistant at our service. Patients who may be anxious no longer focus on anxious anticipation they may have had; they become more focused on being ‘cared for’ in the dental office.” 

Animal-assisted therapy, or use of animals for medical purposes, is not a radically new concept. First explored in the 1800s by nurse Florence Nightingale, today, animals are used in a variety of different medical settings, and research continues to support the benefits. 

According to the American Kennel Club, a trained therapy pet needs to pass the Canine Good Citizen test and other tests to then become fully certified. Our Cali has passed with flying colors! Cali, my dog since she was a puppy, has now been trained to be your therapy dog at my office (if you’d like). She loves to cuddle and does a great job of relaxing anxious patients. Cali and I are registered with Pet Partners, an international organization that makes it possible for us to volunteer in community settings like hospitals, libraries, and assisted living residences. We are now volunteering on the weekends as a dog-therapy team at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Cedars Sinai Medical Center. Even though the requirements to volunteer are quite rigorous, I encourage anyone that has a pet to register and apply as it’s very rewarding. In my office I am following the same protocol used in the hospitals where we spray the patients hands with hand sanitizer before and after petting. Patients have been surprised at how relaxed they feel with Cali lying on or next to them. On more than one occasion, I have observed Cali and my patient both falling asleep during treatment. For some reason the sounds of my drill, suction and air filters seem to put Cali to sleep. Everyone including me gets a release of oxytocin! If you are NOT interested in having Cali on your lap let my staff know as Cali is happy to take breaks! Due to my hospital-grade air filters there have been NO issues with those allergic to animals.